What is your favorite reading Genre?

A question for all RandomAngst.com readers (if there are any yet), which genre has been your favorite to read over the years?

My favorite genre to read has historically been Fantasy, more specifically, Epic Fantasy. I love the creativity that goes in to creating a whole new world, cultures, races, cities, etc. I enjoy being taken on a journey by the author that lets me explore this fantastic world and get to know the different characters and their personalities. If it ends up being a long journey, then that’s okay, as long as it is interesting and stays new and fresh. Most fantasy authors are good at creating a new world and cultures, and infusing them with a hint of something familiar from our real world, but keeping it new and exciting.

Let us know what your favorite genre is and why.

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Indiana Jones and the Army Of The Dead

 

When I first saw this book in the bookstore, I bought it immediately. Indiana Jones, one of my favorite franchises, and Zombies together in the same story?! Fortune and Glory kid, Fortune and Glory.

The story starts off with Indy and Mac (yes, THAT Mac from Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) headed to Haiti in the year 1943 to search for the Heart of Darkness, a big, black pearl (the story’s McGuffin) so that Indy can take it back to his museum. Because as we all know, “It belongs in a museum!”
Indy and Mac arrive in Haiti and plan to gather a team to get ready to head off to search for the pearl on a nearby island. One of the team members serves as Indy’s love interest in the story. Maria Arnoux is a gorgeous, educated woman willing to be their guide once they arrive on the Island of the Dead, the nearby island where the pearl is hidden.
The story also presents different points of view (POV) of three other characters. One character, Boukman, lives on the island and who is a master of black magic and who serves as the story’s villain. There are also two other characters who are heavily involved in the story that we get their POV’s during the story. One is a German officer, Gruber, in Hitler’s army, and the other, Yamada, is a Japanese officer. They are both educated and civilized men on a misson for their respective governments to acquire the pearl to use for military purposes, a la the Ark in Raiders.
The first half of the story is about Indy’s party traveling to the Island of the Dead and hiking through the jungle to find the spot where the pearl is hidden. The German officer and Japanese officer, although on the same side in the current World War, are trying to get the pearl for their own respective governments. They attempt to hide from each other and follow Indy at the same time to be able to seize the pearl at the most opportune time and escape with it.
During one of their first nights on the island, Indy and his party encounter the zombis (spelling from the story), and are freaked out by them. They learn why the island is called the Island of the Dead, as the walking dead inhabit the island. This added threat to Indy is always present throughout the duration of the story. I liked that it was always in the back of my mind as a reader, “Are the zombis going to attack them tonight”?
The first half of the book is of a slower pace and tends to establish the setting, the history and culture of the island, and develop the characters. Once they find the pearl, the story picks up dramatically and is a more action based story. It was at this point that the level of angst began to build and the feeling of dread was evident to me as a reader as the characters were being chased by the zombis. The angst increased as random people started showng up dead as a result of being attacked by a zombi or just disappearing altogether. It was at this point that I began to enjoy the story and it started to feel like an Indiana Jones story. The adventures that occurred throughout the second half of the book were fun to read. The climax of the adventure was a typical Indiana Jones ending, in that the supernatural was present. The ending was appropriate for the story and I felt that overall the story fit in well with the Indiana Jones universe.
I enjoyed reading the Army Of The Dead and I thought that it was well written and that Steve Perry did a great job at capturing the Indiana Jones “feel” of the story. It was great to actually read about Mac and Indy and get a better feel for their relationship that wasn’t confused by the whole “is he a traitor or is he a good guy” conundrum that we got in Crystal Skull. Mac’s character was further developed in this story and it became believable that these two were old friends. I believe that this in turn affects how a reader of this story would view Mac in Crystal Skull, and how his demise at the end of that movie would have more of an impact than it would without this story.
There were a lot of references in this story to the original trilogy of Indy movies and other Indy stories. Steve Perry was wise to bring these in and present them at the appropriate times to help bolster the story as a true Indiana Jones story. I didn’t feel like he used this as a crutch to hold the story up, but was able to present these references in a way that solidified this story in Indy lore.
There were a couple of things that I felt were distracting while reading the story. The first and most glaring, is the use of too many viewpoints. I am talking specifically of Boukman, Gruber and Yamada. While the viewpoints weren’t poorly done nor were the characters poorly developed. They were well written and the characters were developed very well, which is a credit to Steve Perry. He was able to establish in just a short period of time, tertiary characters that fit in well to the story. The problem I had with it is just that, that they were tertiary characters. They were at the level of a Toht from Raiders; or a Mola Rahm from Temple of Doom. They are characters that are important to the story and it is good to know their motivations, but their POV isn’t vital to the story. The story should be Indiana Jones’ story and seen mostly from his perspective. The occasional POV of a different character would be helpful to the story, however there were mutiple POV changes switching back and forth to one of these tertiary characters. This eventually became distracting and unneccesary in my opinion. I wanted more Indy!
A good example of POV use in the story was the use of Marie’s POV. It switched over to her every once in awhile, but never for too long. I thought that this was a great use of her as a character. I don’t know if this was the author’s decision or the editor’s decision to overuse these POV’s of characters that we will never see again, but I believe it was a poor decision. I don’t think there was even a Mac POV used throughout the story, which would have made sense as we could’ve gotten to know him even better through this story. As it was, Mac was kind of just along for the ride. There was good banter between Indy and Mac and their relationship was shown in a positive light, but at the same time I think there was an opportunity lost in being able to use Mac more in the story.
The use of zombis was a great choice and there is nothing more scary than being chased by something that can’t be killed, because it is already dead! Using zombis has become the new thing in stories lately, from Pride and Prejudice and Zombies to the hit show The Walking Dead on AMC. Even Star Wars incorporated stormtrooper zombies into the Universe last year (the same time this book came out), which was awesome and will be reviewed here at RandomAngst.com shortly. 😉 Out of all the stories that I have seen or read, this story makes the most sense to have zombies in them. First of all, the story takes place near Haiti where there are legends of voodoo, zombies, and other things like that tend to come from this region of the planet. Secondly, it’s Indiana Jones and crazy, supernatural things always happen to him while he is out adventuring – right?!

Ratings

ANGST

         

I give this book an ANGST rating of TWO, as there is some good angst in the story, however as a whole the story could’ve had more conflict. There was minimal internal angst in the characters, with most of the conflict occuring in the form of external conflict with zombis attacking Indy and his party.  Which I think was a great source of conflict and thoroughly enjoyed it when it was happening.  The story could’ve had more zombi attacks, in my opinion. 

PROFANITY, VIOLENCE, AND SEXUAL CONTENT

The profanity I would rate a ONE AND A HALF, there’s more than just crude language, but nothing frequent or too crass. The violence would be a hard TWO, as there were zombis in the story, and the only way to kill them is to shoot them in the head or cut their head off. If you didn’t kill them first, they would start chomping on you (which did happen a couple of times.) There was nothing over the top, but what you would expect from a zombie story. The sexual content is a ONE for implied sexual acts and a sensual scene. 

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT , PLOT AND OVERALL

The characterization I would rate a ONE AND A HALF, in that while the characters were well developed, they weren’t the characters I was too interested in. I wanted more Indy and some better development of Mac. The plot I would rate a soft TWO because there weren’t any plot holes and it was well constructed, there weren’t any surprises. It was well written, but straight forward.

The Wheel Of Time Book 13: Towers Of Midnight

Towers of Midnight is the thirteenth book in The Wheel Of Time series that began in 1990. This is the second volume that is co-authored by Brandon Sanderson after Robert Jordan’s death in 2007. The first co-authored book, The Gathering Storm (TGS), was well received by long time Wheel Of Time fans, and this new volume has been well received as well.  Towers Of Midnight (TOM) debuted at number 1 on the New York Times Bestseller list.

The book starts off with the usual lengthy Prologue that at times can be distracting to the reader.  The Prologue always does a good job of setting up the tone of the book and catching the reader up to what is going on in Randland (It has never revealed to the readers what the name of the fictional nation is, so fans have taken to calling it Randland after the name of the main character Rand.).  However, the Prologue is distracting in that while eager to get going in the story and read about the main characters, the reader is forced to read about random tertiary characters and what they are up to. This is a staple in the Wheel Of Time series, but to me has always been a distraction to me.

The series has had three main characters, Rand, Mat and Perrin, that it’s been focusing on, along with some strong secondary characters. The story starts off with an introductory chapter of the main character, Rand, which is appropriate after the last book, TGS, ends with a dramatic chapter involving Rand. To have the first chapter pick up where the last one left off on, was a great transition to the new book. The second chapter then introduces Perrin into the story. One of the criticisms of TGS was that Perrin’s storyline was not addressed much. Well this book makes up for it as the Perrin storyline was addressed in great detail and was the major point of view (POV) addressed in the book.

One of the complaints of TOM is that the different storylines don’t match up. This was an editing decision made by TOR (the publisher of The Wheel Of Time) as a result of a previous decision made by TOR for the previous volume. When Robert Jordan died in 2007, he was working on the final book (at the time), A Memory of Light. Afterwards, TOR brought Brandon Sanderson on board to finish up the final book. It was then later determined to split the final book into three books. Due to this decision the storylines had to be juggled between the two books. The decision was made to address all storylines, except Perrin’s, in TGS thus moving Perrin’s POV to TOM. So while all the other characters POV continue on in TOM, Perrin’s TOM POV is actually being addressed in the past. Perrin’s POV is eventually caught up to the rest of the characters POV. I go off on this tangent because until the reader realizes this it can be a little confusing.

Throughout the duration of the series, Perrin has been my least favorite of the three main characters. So when I heard that TOM was going to be heavy on the Perrin POV, I was a little wary of how I was going to receive the book. I must admit though, that due to Brandon Sanderson’s writing of Perrin, I’ve grown to enjoy reading about Perrin like I haven’t since the opening books in the series.  Brandon has said that his favorite character has been Perrin, so I believe this had something to do with how well he has written Perrin.

Perrin’s POV not only includes Perrin, but his wife, Faile. When Faile was first introduced into the story there was some good banter between the two that carried on throughout the story. However, during the last few books, this angst has just festered and in my opinion has not gone anywhere.  I felt that this problem lead to the whole Perrin storyline and character development stagnating and unbearable to read.   In TOM this conflict is resolved nicely and it felt like the literary flood gates were opened and Perrin’s storyline was literarily released.

The pace of the novel moved along very nicely and had a great flow to it.  There are a number of exciting battle scenes. The first is a Trolloc invasion from the Blight as they attack a Borderlands city. The battle involves Trollocs, Myrddraal, and Dragkhar all fighting at once against Borderlanders and Asha’man. This is a knock down, drag out battle that rages on for quite some time. The battle is well written and well executed from a literary standpoint. The battle serves as a great setup not only showing the immensity of the Shadowspawn hoard that is amassing in the Blight and preparing to attack the Borderlands, but also the battle also serves as a primer for the Last Battle.  The Last Battle has always been an Armageddon event referred to since the first book.  This Battle will take center stage in the next book, A Memory Of Light

In the middle act of the story there was a great multi-POV battle that amped up the story’s pacing even more as several Black Ajah sisters attacked the White Tower, while Seanchan assassins sprung their trap on the Amyrlin Seat, during which time Perrin had his long awaited personal showdown in the Dream World with Slayer that came to a head.

Then there was the showdown between Mat and the gholam.  These two first met and dueled in Book Seven, A Crown Of Swords. Mat is finally able to meet the gholam and fight it on his own terms.

TOM contains one of the most anticipated events in the whole series. The infiltration of the Tower of Ghenji by Matrim Cauthon and company.  The mysterious Tower first appeared in the opening book in the series, The Eye Of The World, and it was established in an earlier novel, that Moraine (a character who was thought to have died) has been alive and is being held in the Tower.  Mat, Thom and Noal devise a plan to infiltrate the Tower and break out Moraine who is being held captive.  The rescue event does not disappoint and once again Mat shines as he sticks his neck out for another character who is in dire need.  This sequence also carried the pacing of the story and made it fun to read.

Some minor criticisms of the story aren’t really harsh criticisms but are something that should be addressed. The voice of the characters are different. This is to be expected as a different author is writing the story and is carrying the Wheel Of Time torch. Brandon Sanderson does not have the same writing style as Robert Jordan. Brandon has never said that he will try and imitate Robert Jordan as that would be almost impossible and would do a disservice to Robert Jordan and his Wheel Of Time legacy. Brandon has stated that he will try and capture the feeling of the story and write it the best way he can.  For me, as a reader, the writing style and the voice of the characters is noticeably different. However, I do feel that although different, the story is better off especially at this late stage. Brandon has made the comparisons that he is an “architect” of stories, while Robert Jordan was a “gardener” of stories. Meaning that Brandon outlines and structures his stories and then writes them within those guidelines, while Robert Jordan would just write and write and let the story grow as he went along.  This is why a Wheel Of Time trilogy has turned into a fourteen book series.  I for one, appreciate that the story has been reined in and is headed towards a long time coming conclusion.  I’ve enjoyed the ride, but it is time to wrap it up and deliver on the story’s climax.

*Hopefully you’ve made it this far into the review. I know it is long, but it is my inaugural review and the book is over 800 pages long! I tried to keep it major spoiler free, as it is a new release book. Let me know if it is still too vague or what you thought of this initial review so RandomAngst.com can keep getting better.  🙂

Ratings

ANGST

                  

The level of angst in the story would be at a Three. There is plenty of external conflict in the story with the fighting and the battles going on throughout the story.  The internal conflict is present, from Gawyn’s internal struggle with whether or not he wants to be Egwene or not; to Faile and Berelain’s confrontation over Perrin and who they believe would best serve Perrin in the future.  There is a scene between Perrin and the Whitecloaks that produces an almost palpable level of angst just in the trial sequence alone.  Even Aviendha, who only makes a brief appearance in the novel, goes through some inner conflict and suffers through some angst. Asha’man, The King of Malkier, Aes Sedai and more all go through some inner turmoil that has been prevalent throughout the series and continues in this book.   I would say that even in the midst of all the battles that are fun to read, the inner conflict is just as entertaining and helps the story progress.

PROFANITY, VIOLENCE, AND SEXUAL CONTENT

Profanity in the story is a soft One, in that the profanity is English in nature and is unique to the characters and land they live in. Meaning that you can as a reader you can discern that they are using profanity, based on the scene and the sentence structure; however it uses words you normally don’t think of as profanity. Violence in the story is a Two, in that there are battle scenes and fighting with soldiers and others getting killed. The violence is within the context of the story and is not overdramatized or glorified for no apparent reason. There is no sexual violence in the story. The sexual  content is also a soft One, in that one of the characters is pregnant and there is reference to who the father was. There is no sexuality portrayed in the story, but alluded to that something has happened (which did in previous books).

CHARACTERIZATION, PLOT, AND OVERALL RATING

I would rate the characterization in this novel as a Three, due to increased character development that has been lacking somewhat in previous books. Characters have already been established and  have needed to progress, which happened in this book.  There was an emotional bond that has been established throughout the past 12 books, and as described earlier with Perrin, I actually grew to like him once again.  I would rate the plot as a Three as well. In this story, certain characters’ storylines, are moving forward and are coming together to combine with other characters’ storylines. Everything is starting to come together.  I found the plot to be well developed and have great structure (which I give full credit to Brandon Sanderson).  Overall I would give this novel a rating of Three.  I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested. The catch is that this is book thirteen of a fourteen book series.  This book, along with TGS, has put the series back on track just in time for the last book of the series to deliver the final punch.

IN SECRET SERVICE

In Secret Service by Mitch Silver.

Apparently this is his first novel, and in my opinion, his inexperience glaringly presents itself in the format of the story. I could tell that he put alot of research into writing this novel and that he came up with some very creative ideas in creating a fictional plot with many twists and turns. Alot of effort was put into the creation of this book. Which is why I can’t understand why he chose the format he did to write the story in. There are two story’s going on at the same time. The overall master story is about the main character, Amy, reading a memoir type letter written to her from Ian Fleming, of James Bond fame, about a secret plot regarding British Royalty and how they were involved with the Nazi’s in World War 2.
The first 3/4 of the book is Amy reading this memoir, with the occasional break about how Amy is getting on the plane, being chased on the plane, and how the person sitting next to her on the plane is murdered, etc. Notice I said occasional breaks, with the majority of the book being Amy reading the manuscript. Although the manuscript is interesting, it is too long winded for its own good. The breaks in Amy reading the script and something else happening were more interesting and exciting than the manuscript. It was almost a chore to read about someone else reading a manuscript. This idea, though creative, was not pulled off very well and could have been presented in a different, more interesting way. But anyway….
After Amy gets off the plane and is almost done reading the manuscript, is when I really started to like the story. There’s quite alot of chase scenes, people getting killed, drama, excitement, love story, etc. I really enjoyed the overall arcing storyline and wished Mr. Silver would have focused more on this storyline than the fictional Ian Fleming story. If I wouldn’t have been reading this book for a book club selection and felt somewhat obligated to finish the book, I probably would have put the book down around page 100. If I would have, I would have missed an exciting ending and wouldn’t have even guessed it was a good ending.
Due to the exciting ending and the cool twist at the end regarding the relationship between the fiance and one of the characters in the manuscript, I am giving this book 7 stars out of 10. With the majority of the stars being earned due to the ending of the book.
Mr. Silver has some potential to produce some good stories in the future and I wish him good luck in his future novels!

ALIAS GRACE

Grace Marks had a hard life from her humble beginnings, but overcame many trials to become a successful young woman.
The first part of the book spent alot of time talking about life in the time of Grace Marks and I did find that interesting to read about. It was good to read about the ‘innocent’ times in Grace’s life when she was growing up and learning how to be a good servant girl. This added to the tragedy of the story of Grace Marks.
The story turned dark at the happiest moments in Grace’s young life. Her best friend, Mary Whitney, got pregnant and tried to get an abortion in a day and time, where it was a deadly and risky procedure. It turned out to be fatal for Mary Whitney, as she died that night. Grace had an episode where she freaked out and couldn’t remember what she had been doing for the past two days when she came to again. (Can you say foreshadowing?)
From this moment on life was never the same for Grace. She began to bounce around from home to home and job to job. She finally found a good opportunity through Nancy Montgomery to work with a single gentleman, Mr. Kinnear, in his home with Nancy and a stable hand, McDermott. There is a friendly neighborhood boy, Jamie Walsh, who helps out Kinnear too. Upon arriving at the new home, she was introduced to her new duties.
Grace later learns that Nancy and Kinnear are having an affair and later Nancy becomes pregnant. Grace becomes fearful that as in past experiences, Nancy may try to get an abortion like Mary Whitney did.
McDermott is not happy working there and is given notice to leave by Nancy. He plans on killing Nancy and Kinnear just before he is to leave. He gets Grace to go along with the plan, who passively agrees to go along as she is in fear of what McDermott will do to her if she refuses.
This is where the story gets murky and not very definative; in that since in real life, there were multiple accounts as to who killed who and how. Grace claims that she has no memory of the killings, but has memory of what happened immediately before and after the murders.
According to Grace, Nancy is killed by McDermott and then a couple of days later, Kinnear is shot by McDermott, when he comes home from a business trip.
Grace and McDermott flee and are eventually caught and brought to trial. McDermott is hanged and then at the last minute Grace’s sentenced is changed from death by hanging to life in prison.
The story is told through a fictional Doctor Jordan, who is in jail interviewing Grace over a period of a couple of weeks. Personally, I have a problem with this type of storytelling in a novel. I think that it lazy writing and not very imaginative. The author does use descriptive writing and shows that she has writing skills. However, I feel that this narrative storytelling approach robs the reader of a richer and more intimate story. In the end the fictional storyline of Dr. Jordan doesn’t go anywhere as he just fades away into the background.
I get that the author was trying to draw a lot of parallels between fictional Dr. Jordan and a real life Grace Marks. I think she did this so as to passively show her opinion of what happened to Grace Marks in the unknown parts of the story. I would’ve rather have seen a more fleshed out fictional, when needed, story about the real characters and events in the story.
The actual crux of the story, the murders of Nancy and Kinnear, wasn’t fully addressed in the climax of the story. It was always hinted at and different opinions of the events were given all throughout the book, but it wasn’t described at the right time in the book. I’m guessing this is due to Grace’s reported memory loss of the event.
For me, the best part of the story was when Grace was put under hypnosis to describe the events of that night. This was the creepiest part of the story and I would have loved to have seen more scenes like this one. In this part, upon being put under hypnosis, Grace switches personalities and is Mary Whitney! Mary Whitney confesses to the murders of the two people and describes what happened. I would have loved to see more of this explained of how Grace is either possessed by Mary Whitney’s soul (which is what is hinted at), or have a type of mental health explanation such as multiple personalities. This could have been addressed more throughout the book, since it is a work of fiction and the author could have taken liberties with the story. A lost opportunity in my opinion.
In the end, Grace is released after almost thirty years in prison, as in real history and moves to New York. In history, nothing more is known about Grace after this happens. However, the author writes another chapter on how she meets up with Jamie, the boy from the Kinnear farm, who has now grown into a man. They get married and she lives a happy fictional life from that point on.
I feel that Grace was guilty of being an accomplice in the crime, and also that she was coerced into it by McDermott, who was mad at Nancy and Kinnear for being fired. Grace felt that she would be killed by McDermott along with the others if she didn’t go along with it. McDermott wanted her to run away with her to America and they could get married and be together. Grace went along with all of this due to her fear of McDermott. I think Grace was guilty of not notifying someone of McDermott’s intentions and could have stopped it. She was young and inncocent and this most likely contributed to her decision to go along with McDermott out of fear.
Overall, it was a good story, a bit ambiguous in regards to the pivotal moment of the whole story, but well written in a format that I personally don’t care for. I give the book a rating of 7 out of 10. I would read another story by this author if recommended to me.

Monthly Book Club

RandomAngst.com will also be choosing a book to read as a group on a monthly basis. This book will be reviewed by RandomAngst.com staff and will be open for RandomAngst.com readers to post their own reviews or to comment on staff reviews.  Eventually over time, this will morph into a podcast roundtable format.

Random Angst is back

Random Angst in the past has been a blog about a book club group that would meet and read a book once a month. This book club has since gone on hiatus :), and now Random Angst will be a book review website. If you are seeing this message right now, it’s because the website is in it’s infant stage and will be growing over the next few months.  Be patient and check back ever so often.